Sunday, May 19, 2013
Impact of New Concussion Law on Student Athletes
If the symptoms—like memory loss, headache, and fatigue— are ignored, the effects of a concussion can cause lasting damage.
In less than three days Alaskan kids from all over the state will hit the gridiron for the start of the high school football season.
It's a long anticipated event but this year things will be different because a new student concussion law changes the way student athletes are treated.
The law, sponsored by Rep. Mike Doogan and Sen. Lesil McGuire, will remove any kid from play or practice if a concussion is suspected.
Doctors say concussions happen more frequently than you might expect and often go unreported. Lawmakers say the law will save young lives.
“As a coach, in the past I had situations that I wasn't even aware of and you see a young man you think is okay, and you want to put him back in,” said Chris Borst, head football coach at Dimond High School.
The mentality and culture surrounding sports injuries, and more specifically head injuries, have changed as college athletes and professional have come forward.
If the symptoms—like memory loss, headache, and fatigue— are ignored, it can cause lasting damage, according to Dr. Mary Paige Lucas, member of the Alaska Brain Injury Network.
Also, students are not always able to accurately identify the extent of their injuries and will often ignore symptoms because they’re anxious to get back into the game.
“When the head is hit, there is a metabolic thing that goes on and different enzymes are secreted in the brain and for these to get reabsorbed and for everything to go back to normal in the brain it takes a little while,” Lucas said.
Because of the new law, all student athletes in Alaska will be required to receive baseline concussion testing. This way medical responders will be able to compare the student’s disposition, thinking and behavior post-concussion to pre-concussion condition.
The Alaska School Activities Association, better known as ASAA, is working with school districts across the state to reach every student athlete so the next time they play their sport they can be protected.
“We are going to provide as much help as we can, but in the end it’s the school districts’ necks on the line,” said Gary Matthews, the executive director of ASAA.
“Your first reaction is, well, we gotta get that kid back in the game—he's one of our better players and we need him. It’s hard to resist the temptation, but you certainly try to make sure to do what's best for the kid,” said Borst.
Doctors say the effects of concussions go beyond playing or practicing and into the classroom. Concussions can affect a student’s ability to concentrate, compute, read or write.
Now every student in every sport across the state will have to be tested before they can compete. ASAA says the process is challenging but necessary.